5 Ways to Be a Good Listener for Your Spouse

5 Ways to Be a Good Listener for Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Opening your heart to your spouse—and nurturing theirs—requires listening well. With so many different issues, obligations, devices, and people pulling at us from every direction, it can be difficult to slow down and truly listen to one another. Listening can be pleasant, but sometimes it’s downright hard. Sometimes, you might want to tune out and lose yourself in your favorite pastime instead—or dive into the list of to-do items you still need to cross off before the day is over.

But to have a healthy, thriving marriage, it’s critical to truly listen to your spouse with empathy and generosity. Today, we’re sharing five ways you can be a good listener for your spouse.

1. LISTEN WITH EMPATHY

When you practice empathy, you’re putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes and seeing things through their eyes. Whether you’re trying to resolve a conflict or just simply listening to your spouse talk about their day, it’s beneficial to both of you to listen with empathy when your spouse speaks to you. For you, it gives you a window into their world and their perspective. For your spouse, knowing that you’re listening from an empathic vantage point helps them feel secure.

Maybe your spouse needs to vent about work, and normally, you tune out when they start talking about their tough day or their challenging project. Instead of switching your mind off while they talk, try to see the events of the day through their eyes, and in the context of your life. Have you been dealing with problems at home, like financial issues, trouble with the kids, or taking care of an ailing parent? Contextualizing your whole life along with what’s happening at your spouse’s job will help you understand the level of pile-on they’re dealing with.

2. LISTEN FOR EMOTION

When your spouse needs to talk to you about something—especially if it’s something hard—it’s easy to get wrapped up and carried away by your own emotions on the topic. In that case, you might respond to your spouse in a totally inappropriate way in your attempt to alleviate the difficult emotions that come up for you. Instead, take a minute to listen for what your spouse might be feeling. This type of intentional listening goes hand-in-hand with empathy.

Once you’ve identified what your spouse is feeling—whether it’s anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, or excitement—you can adjust your responses based on their emotional state. It gives you an extra chance to check yourself before you say or do something that might exacerbate the emotional state they’re in. When our emotions go into a tailspin, it can be difficult to keep communication healthy.

3. LISTEN WITHOUT BIAS

You’ve both got your opinions, and it’s hard to let those opinions go in favor of simply listening to one another. Listening without bias is helpful when you have opposite stances on certain issues, or when you’re locked in a stalemate during a fight. Set your opinions aside for long enough to hear what your spouse is saying, then practice your empathy skills to try to understand why.

This doesn’t mean you have to change your opinion to match your spouse’s. What it does mean is that your spouse deserves to be heard, and you can’t truly hear if you’re filtering everything they say through your own bias.

4. LISTEN LOVINGLY

When you’re communicating with your spouse, it can be helpful to use loving gestures and body language to let them know you care about what they have to say. It can be as simple as holding eye contact and nodding to affirm what they’re telling you. You could also reach out to touch them or hold hands. Turn your body toward them, or even stop what you’re doing and just sit with them if that’s what they need.

While you may be able to go about your business and have a conversation at the same time (and that can be okay sometimes), there are going to be times where you need to just put everything down and focus all your attention on your spouse. Turn off the TV, put down your phone or other devices, forget the to-do list for a little while, and give your spouse loving affirmation through eye contact and touch.

5. LISTEN GENEROUSLY

Your spouse needs the gift of your time and attention. It’s hard to take time out of our busy lives to generously give our energy to listening when we have so much to do every day, but communicating openly is key to a healthy marriage. When you listen generously, your spouse will feel secure in coming to you with their concerns, hopes, and fears.

If you would like more help with listening and communicating well with your spouse, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

My Spouse Is Refusing Professional Help! What Can I Do?

My Spouse Is Refusing Professional Help! What Can I Do? 

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

We all go through times in our lives and our marriages when we’d benefit greatly from getting professional help. Whether we’re having trouble dealing with a life change or transition, experience depression, or facing addiction, there are hundreds of scenarios that could warrant going into counseling with your spouse. But what happens if you recognize the need to get help…but your spouse doesn’t? Is there anything you can do?

You can’t force someone to seek therapy, but you can encourage it—and you can make changes to yourself that result in positive changes for your spouse. Read on for four common scenarios many couples face, and how to approach getting help for a spouse who doesn’t want or recognize the need for it.

IF YOUR SPOUSE REFUSES MARRIAGE COUNSELING…

Maybe you and your spouse have some recurring issues or unresolved problems that are causing trouble in your relationship. The two of you might be fighting a lot lately. Your spouse might have even asked for a separation, or you might suspect that he or she wants a divorce.

You know that working with a therapist or marriage counselor could help the two of you work through whatever you’ve been struggling with. The problem is, your spouse is completely against the idea, and nothing you say will change their mind about it.

It’s incredibly painful when you’re motivated to work on your relationship, but your spouse isn’t willing. You might feel stuck or hopeless, but there’s good news: you can seek help yourself and make changes on your own—without your spouse—that can improve your marriage.

Going to counseling on your own can help you focus on becoming the healthiest possible version of yourself. The most important thing you can do for your marriage is to work on who you are; every healthy choice you make gives your spouse a chance to join you.

Even if your spouse never attends a therapy session, the positive changes you make will affect him or her significantly. In fact, your change is a catalyst for change in your spouse. We’ve seen relationships turn around completely as a result of just one spouse stepping up to get help. So even if you’re the only one willing to seek help, you can still improve your marriage.

IF YOUR SPOUSE IS EXPERIENCING DEPRESSION…

Have you noticed that your spouse seems distant from you and disinterested in things they used to enjoy? Have you observed sudden changes in their sleep habits, appetite, energy levels, or mood? If you suspect that your spouse is dealing with depression, there are a few things you can do that will go a long way toward encouraging them to get the help they need.

First, educate yourself on the degrees and common variations of depression. Depression is a spectrum, ranging from mild, circumstantial depressive periods to severe chemical imbalances and mood disorders.

Your spouse’s depression might be temporary and circumstantial; maybe you’ve just gone through a major life change that triggered it. Some depression is neurochemical, requiring medications and interventions from doctors and therapists. Everyone’s case is different, so it’s important to try to identify what’s going on.

You don’t want to treat depression lightly; if your spouse can’t identify it in themselves, it’s up to you to try to help him or her recognize the symptoms. Try to get some outside, objective help if you can; if your spouse continues to resist therapy or counseling, find a checklist of common depression symptoms and identify the signs you’ve noticed in your spouse. Gently share your list with your spouse and tell them something like, “You know, it feels like so many of these things are things you’re dealing with. I love you and I’d love to see you start feeling better again.”

Continue gently encouraging your spouse to seek help; it’s important for them to get evaluated by a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible. It’s hard to admit you’re having a problem with depression, but the sooner your spouse admits it, the sooner he or she will be on the road to recovery.

IF YOUR SPOUSE HAS AN ADDICTION…

Addiction is one of the most difficult issues to face in any relationship—especially your marriage. You might have been watching your spouse fall into their particular addiction for a while now, but maybe you’ve only recently realized how bad it is. And it’s difficult—sometimes impossible—to communicate with someone who doesn’t see a problem you see.

Whether your spouse’s addiction is gambling, drugs, alcohol, pornography, or something else, he or she is likely to be in serious denial about the issue. Addiction is the physical reality that you’ve lost control over your ability to resist something. And it’s the emotional reality of the pain you’re trying to escape from because you’re unable to cope with it.

If your spouse won’t agree to seek help, think about staging an intervention with some trusted friends or members of your family. Sometimes, a person who is in denial about an addiction needs a group of voices to lead them toward help—not just one. They have to be willing to say, “I’m powerless over this,” then be willing to be vulnerable and put in the hard work to overcome the addiction.

IF YOUR SPOUSE IS A CHILDHOOD TRAUMA SURVIVOR…

Childhood trauma—whether it’s emotional, physical, mental, or sexual abuse—is a serious and weighty topic that continues to impact victims into their adult lives (especially their marriages). If your spouse grew up in a sexually abusive home, for instance, he or she needs extensive therapy in order to experience healing.

When someone has been through that kind of trauma, they’re going to have baggage that will impact both them and their spouse for years to come until they’ve found some kind of resolution for the ongoing pain. Your spouse has the power to become a healing presence for others because of their past, but they need guidance from a counselor to turn their traumatic experiences into healing for others.

The first step toward healing is awareness. If your spouse has confided in you, that’s the first step. We know couples who have gone for decades before one spouse’s childhood trauma was revealed, and in retrospect, they could understand so much more about the troubles they’d faced in their 25 years of marriage.

Keep communication open and encourage your spouse to seek therapy. As an alternative step forward (although we highly recommend moving on to therapy together), your spouse might be open to starting the conversation with a mentor couple first.

If you would like help with your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

11 Ways Engaged Couples Should Deal with Finances Now

11 Ways Engaged Couples Should Deal with Finances Now

By Deepak Reju

So you’re engaged, and now you’re preparing for the big day. There are a thousand things on your mind. Wedding dress. Invitations. A cake. A photographer. The list goes on and on.

What about your finances? If you’re a typical single, you do your best to manage your finances and have a good sense of how much is entering and exiting your bank account. But now you’re getting married. What should change? Marriage gurus name the three big areas of conflict as sex, parenting, and finances. How can you prevent future fights over money?

Here are 11 recommendations.

1. Your money is not just a practical issue, but a spiritual one.

Don’t falsely divide your life into financial management or spiritual issues. As Christians, all of life falls under the sovereignty of God, including our finances. As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24).

A follower of Jesus cannot have divided loyalties; the Lord is to be first in all things. And Christian priorities should guide your handling of money. How you steward it is a spiritual issueYour money can be used for kingdom purposes, or it can hinder your relationship with God. Which is it for you?

2. Don’t merge your finances before the big day.

David and Sally were engaged. Things went so poorly they broke up. Problem was, they’d merged their finances and didn’t keep track of who spent what.

You aren’t yet married. So don’t pretend you’re married with all the perks of marriage. It’s a colossal mess to deal with merged finances after a nasty breakup. Tensions are already high enough when things fall apart. Why add to this mess?

3. Merge your bank accounts after you get married.

How you handle your money in marriage says a lot about your trust for one another. Getting married means merging everything. It’s no longer his money, or her money, but our money. Traditional marriage vows often state, “With this ring, I thee wed, and with all my world goods I thee endow.” If you’re not willing to entrust your money and everything you own to your future spouse, why are you getting married?

This is serious business. I won’t marry a couple if they won’t merge their bank accounts after marriage. It signals they don’t trust one another with important things.

4. You need a budget.

In and of itself, money is not anything. It’s a proxy for value. So when we fight over our money, we’re fighting over what we value.

We learn these values from different places (family, church, education, and so on). As Christians, your values will be similar. You treasure God and his kingdom (Matt. 6:19–2133). You desire a generous spirit (Prov. 14:21312 Cor. 9:11). You steward your resources wisely (Prov. 27:23). Nevertheless, even as Christians you’ve learned different financial values due to your differing educations, upbringings, and experiences.

Here’s the rub: Your financial values are primarily intuitive. And these implicit values will be made explicit in marriage. As your differing values come into conflict, they can create tension.

So how do you prevent conflict over money? Establish a common set of values—a shared value system. A husband and wife should operate with a mutually-agreed-upon set of financial values. When you form a budget together, implicit values get discussed as you answer the question, “What do we mutually value?” Your family budget is a primary way to give expression to what is important to both of you.

There will be less conflict in a marriage marked by careful financial planning and explicit shared values. So why not start working toward that goal during engagement by planning your future budget and discussing your common values? A budget turns conversations about money from reactive and constraint-driven to proactive and opportunity-driven.

5. Take the one-income challenge.

If you want to take things one step further with your proposed budget, remove one of your incomes and figure out how to live on just one salary. For some of you, the thought is painful. Here are four reasons I ask couples to consider this practice:

  • Learning to trim unnecessary expenses, like frequent eating out, is a good habit. It takes discipline to live on less.
  • A second income (while it’s available) can be used to eliminate debt or prepare for the future (for example, save for a down payment on a home or create a rainy-day fund). Use that second income to be especially aggressive about paying off debt with high interest rates.
  • If the wife desires to be at home once you have kids, it’s good to figure out now (while you’re engaged) what’s required financially to make that life possible. And no matter what you think you’ll do regarding employment once kids come along, you want to give yourselves flexibility for that new stage of life.
  • A one-income budget prepares you for uncertainty. Jessica and John got pregnant in their first month of marriage. She was sick throughout the pregnancy and was no longer able to work. They didn’t plan for it, so they weren’t prepared.

Even if you don’t end up living on just one income, learning to discipline your budget is a wise thing to do.

6. Establish a habit of communicating about finances.

Don’t leave one another in the dark. I cringe when I hear someone say, “I don’t know anything about our finances. If my spouse died, I don’t know what I’d do.” During engagement, communicate about your finances. Think, plan, and scheme together about your financial future. Establish the habit now, so that it’s normal in marriage to discuss it. Your finances are God-given means of building unity.

7. Figure out a plan for the grunt work.

Establishing a budget is easy. Executing a budget is hard. Too often I’ve met couples who created a viable budget, but never followed through. Don’t let that be you.

8. Get out of debt.

Take advantage of the time when you have no children and two incomes. Establish an aggressive payment schedule for getting out of debt now. You won’t regret it.

9. Don’t let difficult circumstances get in the way of giving.

The churches in Macedonia were suffering great trials and didn’t have much, yet they gave sacrificially (2 Cor. 8:1–2). They were poor, and they still gave. The love of Christ compelled them to live this way. Adopt a gospel-mindset that, no matter what, you’ll give generously to others.

10. Establish a habit of giving sacrificially and cheerfully.

Giving is an act of grace (2 Cor. 8:6). It’s a reflection of the grace we’ve received through Christ who, though rich, impoverished himself for our sake (2 Cor. 8:9). A gospel mindset says because Christ gave up his life for me, I should give up my life for others. A gospel-saturated life, then, results in generosity toward others. Oh that we wouldn’t be stingy Christians, but those who would beg for the privilege of giving more (2 Cor. 8:4).

Additionally, develop the habit of focusing outward and serving others rather than obsessing over the perfect wedding day. Give your money first to the Lord rather than spending it all on wedding vendors.

11. Give to missionaries and parachurch work, but start with your local church.

If your local church is the main hub of your spiritual growth, it should be main source of your generous giving (Gal. 6:6). Give to missions, campus workers, or lots of other solid Christian causes, but start with God’s primary plan for advancing his kingdom—the local church.

Start Now

Because your finances matter to the Lord, they should matter to you and your fiancé. Don’t wait until you’re married to take finances seriously! During engagement you can establish the habits of creating a budget, adjusting your spending, communicating about money, and giving generously to your church. This preparation will position you for a lifetime of wise financial choices.

Stewarding your money in a way that glorifies God is a privilege. A challenging one for sure, but a privilege nonethless.

If you are looking for more premarital help or premarital counseling, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

3 Can’t Miss Financial Tips for Married Couples

3 Can’t Miss Financial Tips for Married Couples

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Money is one of the toughest subjects to tackle in marriage. It’s one of the top reasons married couples fight, and it’s a source of constant stress and strain for many couples around the world. But the good news is, you and your spouse can create a healthy attitude around money in your marriage if you know where to start.

It’s important to establish healthy financial practices as early in marriage as possible. Today, we’re sharing three financial habits you can establish to start out on the right foot.

BE RESPECTFUL OF EACH OTHER’S MONEY STYLE

Are you a saver, while your spouse is more of a spender? Savers and spenders have the uncanny ability of finding each other and getting married; it’s rare for both spouses to have the same financial style. And when it comes to spending versus saving, it’s important to have empathy for one another.

First, acknowledge that each of you might be a little more extreme in your stance than you need to be. When you acknowledge your spouse’s voice, it helps to prevent them from becoming more extreme in their money behaviors to protect themselves and their preferences around spending and saving.

The most important thing here is to create a sense of balance and shared ownership in your finances so neither of you acts out the most extreme version of your money tendencies. If you both decide to split bill-paying duties, that will serve as its own form of accountability.

An effective way to generate empathy for one another’s money personality is to go shopping together and reverse roles. If you’re the saver, act like the spender and have your spouse urge you to save. This could completely transform the way you each approach money because it gives you a chance to understand what kind of anxiety you create for each other when you’re digging in your financial heels by either pushing hard to spend or save.

If you’re the spender, maybe you could take over financial responsibilities for a month to see the reality of your expenses. Money will become more tangible when you’re making bank deposits and withdrawals, paying bills, and monitoring the budget. It will also give you empathy for your saver-spouse’s stance.

START A BUDGET TOGETHER

Once you’ve become more familiar with each other’s money style, start a budget. Budgets don’t work unless they’re a shared dream, so carve out some time to put your heads together and create a great starting point for your monthly finances. You’re going to want to do this together; this isn’t a solo act where one person runs the numbers and lays down the law. Look at the numbers together, talk through each issue, and chart a budget you agree on using our handy budgeting sheet (you can download a copy here).

The most important thing to realize when you’re creating a budget is that this is a work in progress; it’s not something you have to set in stone from day one. It’s not finalized; rather, it gives you a healthy starting place to operate from when it comes to spending and saving money.

Once a month, quarterly, or bi-annually, sit down together to take a look at your spending and saving patterns against the budget you established. As you review the numbers, ask yourselves what life has demanded from you in comparison to the budget you created. Talk through what’s negotiable versus what’s not, then adjust your budget to something that’s more realistic for you as a couple. (You can find a deeper dive into getting on the same page financially in this post.)

AUTOMATE YOUR SAVINGS

One of the best ways to save money every month is to put a system in place that will save for you. Set up automatic withdrawals that funnel a certain amount of money into your savings account as soon as your paychecks hit the bank; this creates a disciplined savings routine so you don’t have the option of changing your mind.

The most important thing is to build savings systems that provide automatic discipline so the hard decisions are already done for you. It’s like anything that requires willpower or sacrifice; you have to remove the temptation to spend the money by moving the money out of reach.

If you have a hard time saving toward a specific goal, set goal markers for yourself and build in gratification along the way as you reach each milestone. Maybe you allow yourselves to purchase something you’d like, or maybe you take a nice vacation. Or perhaps you can plan for small, realistic daily rewards. But be realistic; you can’t deny yourselves everything.

YOU CAN DO THIS!

It can feel a little tricky to navigate financial issues together, but you can absolutely find common ground and a way to deal with money in your marriage that works for both of you. Stay patient, empathic, and kind as you create your unique financial style as a couple. The payoff will be worth the preparation!

 

If you would like help with your relationship or marriage, give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our counselors or coaches.

4 Ways to Support Your Spouse’s Creativity

4 Ways to Support Your Spouse’s Creativity

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Creative pursuits add an exciting dimension to our lives. Music, theatre, art, writing, dance–these are just a few of the creative outlets you or your spouse might enjoy. But if you’re not particularly creative, what are some ways to support your spouse’s passions?

1. SHOW INTEREST IN THEIR CREATIVE PURSUITS.

Your spouse’s passion for creativity adds meaning, joy, and purpose to their life–and it can do the same for you. Whether your spouse is painting, sculpting, dancing, writing, singing, playing music, or any number of other creative pursuits, it’s important to show interest in what they’re creating.

Is your spouse a painter, graphic designer, or illustrator? Ask to see pieces of their work. Does your spouse perform on stage? Go see a play or musical they’re in. Is your spouse a musician? Ask them to play for you or ask to hear their latest recording. Does your spouse write? Read something they’ve written.

When your spouse lets you into their creative world, it’s important not to offer unwanted critique of their work. Try to respond to their creations or performances in a positive and supportive way. Your spouse is being vulnerable by allowing you to be a part of their creativity, so treat it gently.

If you find yourself uninterested in your spouse’s passions, it’s important to remind yourself how much this means to him or her. Set a calendar reminder to periodically ask about what your spouse is up to lately, and whether you can see their latest work. Marriage is all about compromise and sacrifice, so give your spouse some much-needed attention in this area of your life that’s so important to them.

2. GIVE THEM THE TIME THEY NEED TO CREATE.

Creativity takes time, which is a commodity for most busy adults (especially for parents of young children). Give your spouse the gift of time by:

  • Volunteering to take care of certain weekly tasks so that he or she has a little extra time
  • Occupying the kids for a little while so he or she can paint, write, practice, etc.
  • Making sure not to interrupt them while they’re working
  • Supporting that designated space and time with thing that make them more comfortable (music, coffee, cozy socks, art supplies, etc.)

It has been said that we can’t help others if we don’t put on our oxygen masks first. For your spouse, that creative outlet is their oxygen mask. So extend the gift of creative time, and you’ll both reap the benefits.

3. UNDERSTAND THIS IS PART OF WHO THEY ARE.

Most likely, you realized your spouse had a creative streak when you were dating. Now that you’re married, it’s still the same. During the early years of marriage, it’s common for creative pursuits and outside activities to fall by the wayside while the two of you get to know each other and settle into your new life together (although that isn’t always the case). But at some point, if you spouse has set aside their creative passions for one reason or another, they’re going to want to pick them up again.

You might feel resistant to the idea, especially if it means giving up some of the time you want to spend with your spouse. But remember, this is a part of who they are. It’s not fair to your spouse for you to deny that part of them, any more than it is for them to deny or reject an important part of your own identity. Every day that you honor and love your spouse’s whole self, you’re giving them a tremendous gift.

4. FIND JOY IN THEIR HAPPINESS.

Joy is contagious. When your spouse is creating, they are full of joy–so allow that joy to make its way into your heart, too.

Do you have creative interests you’ve never pursued–or haven’t pursued in a long time? Let your spouse’s passion inspire you to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Then, the two of you can deepen your intimacy by sharing your creative pursuits and making time for one another’s passions.

If you would like more help in the area of your relationship with your spouse or potential spouse, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our counselors or coaches.

10 Romantic Fall Dates To Enjoy With Your Spouse

10 Romantic Fall Dates To Enjoy With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Fall is a beautiful and exciting time of year, with changing leaves, football season in full swing, and holidays right around the corner. Take advantage of the cooler weather and the wide variety of seasonal activities to go on some creative and romantic dates with your spouse.

There are plenty of ways to fully enjoy the autumn, so we’ve created a list of 10 ideas to get you started. Have fun!

1. GO ON A COFFEE DATE

There’s never a wrong time to get coffee, but there’s something about fall that makes a hot drink seem more appealing. Cooler temperatures are a great excuse to have a date at your favorite coffee shop—and fall is pumpkin spice season, which makes it extra special.

2. HAVE A BONFIRE AND MAKE S’MORES

There’s something romantic about snuggling in front of the bonfire in the chilly night air, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. If either of you (or both!) plays an instrument, like guitar, banjo, or mandolin, bring it to the fireside and liven things up with a little music.

3. GO TO A FOOTBALL GAME

High school and college football games are always a blast. You and your spouse could plan a trip to your respective alma maters’ homecoming festivities and share memories from your college days. Even better, relive your own memories together if you both attended the same school.

4. GO ON A HIKE

A hike is a great way to see the gorgeous fall foliage in all its glory. Choose your favorite scenic trail and spend the day talking, taking pictures, and enjoying each other’s company. Take a picnic with you and savor the day together…and the view.

5. CAMP OUT

Fall weather is perfect for camping, so pick a favorite campground or state park and pack up for the weekend. You can unplug and spend time together fishing, biking, hiking, and rejuvenating in nature. If you’d rather have a staycation, pitch a tent in your backyard and spend the night under the stars.

6. BAKE A PIE TOGETHER

Autumn is definitely pie season! Apple pies, pumpkin pies, and sweet potato pies are all seasonal favorites, so pick your favorite to bake together and make an afternoon of it. When it’s done, make some apple cider or hot chocolate to wash it down.

7. PLAY IN THE LEAVES

Not much connects you to your inner child during fall quite like raking up a huge pile of leaves, then diving into them. Make your autumn yard clean-up a little more interesting this year by playing together while you work.

8. GO TO THE PUMPKIN PATCH

Take a day trip to the pumpkin patch to pick out your pumpkins for this year’s porch decorations. While you’re at it, take a hayride and play with the baby animals on the farm.

9. GET COZY BY THE FIRE

Chilly nights are the perfect excuse to put on some fuzzy socks, grab a comfy blanket, and snuggle up together by a roaring fire. Put on some relaxing music or watch your favorite scary movie (or fun, if you don’t like scary!) with your sweetie, and enjoy a date night in.

10. ATTEND A CARNIVAL OR FALL FESTIVAL

Fall festivals are a ton of fun, and the perfect setting for a date night. Get in on the cake walk, grab a candy apple or some cotton candy, play horseshoes or ring toss, and ride the rides like you’re a couple of kids again.

 

If you would like help with your relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Sexual Frequency in Marriage: 3 Common Questions

Sexual Frequency in Marriage: 3 Common Questions

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

At some point in every couple’s marriage—often in the early years—the question of sexual frequency comes up. They might find themselves wondering how often they “should” be having sex, how to agree on frequency, or whether they’re normal.

Today, we’re tackling three common questions about sexual frequency, and what you and your spouse can do to ensure the highest level of satisfaction and fulfillment for your marriage.

MY SPOUSE AND I HAVE VERY DIFFERENT SEXUAL NEEDS. HOW DO WE GET ON THE SAME PAGE?

Finding a healthy compromise between two different sex drives is a delicate, difficult subject for many couples. How do both of you meet each other’s needs and still get your needs met when the two of you are on such different pages?

Getting on the same page about sex requires give and take, and a generous spirit from both of you. It’s easy to fall into a rut of thinking, “I guess this is just the way it is; there’s nothing we can do about it.” There is absolutely something you can do for a more fulfilling sex life: start an ongoing dialogue about what you need from each other.

Don’t just have one conversation about sex and abandon the subject. Keep talking about it as often as you need to in order to meet each other’s needs, and get your own met. Neglecting this critical conversation can lead to one or both of you developing unhealthy sexual behaviors and attitudes surrounding sex.

We know of at least one couple that has a weekly sex talk to check in on their love life. They ask each other questions like, “Where are you at this week? What can we do to make sure sex is the best it can be?”

When you set aside time to talk about this, remember you’re both doing your best. You both have needs that may or may not be getting met at any given time, but it’s important not to make one another feel guilty about how things are going in your love life. This topic is already loaded and heavy; be careful not to add any unnecessary heaviness to the conversation.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet or particular solution that settles this issue, but if you keep that open dialogue, you’re much more likely to find fulfillment together. Simply talking to each other about it and being honest about your needs—and being willing to meet needs in your spouse that you may not share—is the key to reaching a happy medium.

WE ONLY HAVE SEX A FEW TIMES A MONTH, BUT IT’S GREAT! ARE WE NORMAL?

We hear this question so often, especially from newlywed couples. No matter how often you have sex, what matters is whether you’re both satisfied and fulfilled. What’s “normal” isn’t the issue—it’s about what works for you!

Studies have shown that sexual frequency in married couples ranged from four times to 45 times per month after two years of marriage. That’s a wide range! And chances are, your frequency is impacted by the season of life you’re in. Do you have a baby or young kids at home? Does one of you work a shift that isn’t conducive to frequent lovemaking? Are you helping to care for elderly parents or in-laws?

One thing we’ve found with many of the couples we’ve worked with over the years is that often, life circumstances may lower the frequency of sex. BUT, even when quantity goes down, the quality goes up. These couples’ emotional intimacy and understanding of one another’s needs leads to a fulfilling sex life despite the lower frequency.

Every couple has their own individual set of intimacy needs. If you’re having sex a frequency that feels low to you, check in with each other. Are you both happy with your sex life? This is a great way to learn whether you’re in sync, and whether you need to work together to make adjustments.

The key is not to reach a certain level of “normalcy;” instead, the key is to be satisfied. That’s a much easier—and more enjoyable!—goal to work toward.

WE USED TO MAKE LOVE ALL THE TIME, BUT LATELY, MY SPOUSE ISN’T AS INTERESTED. WHAT CAN I DO?

It’s true that frequency of sex can be an indicator of how your relationship is doing, especially if your spouse has experienced a sudden drop in interest. And, it’s easy to feel rejected when they don’t show the same level of sexual desire as they did in the past. But desire depends on so many factors, and often, they have more to do with your spouse personally than they have to do with you as a couple.

Sleep deprivation, emotional distress, preoccupation, and underlying health problems are just a few of the issues that can impact your spouse’s desire. To get to the bottom of this, one of the most important things you can do is talk to your spouse. Find a time to talk when you can both feel emotionally safe. In other words, don’t bring up the issue during lovemaking—it’s much too vulnerable of a time to talk about the problems you’ve perceived in your sex life, and it won’t work.

Don’t accuse your spouse or make them feel bad; instead, communicate openly until you get to the bottom of what’s going on, and be honest about what you want—and what you miss in your relationship. Most of all, be patient and let your spouse know you love them and you’re there for them. Remember, like most seasons, this one will most likely run its course, and you’ll move into a healthier season of lovemaking soon.

If you would like help in your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Finances: How to Get on the Same Page With Your Spouse

Finances: How to Get on the Same Page With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Money is a loaded issue in most marriages because it represents the ability to get the things we need and want. It tends to become an issue of power, dictating who makes the decisions and whose dreams get fulfilled. Needless to say, discussions about money, bills, and budgeting can generate some powerful emotions.

It’s not always easy to navigate money matters, especially in the early years of your marriage. In today’s post, we’re going to explore some ways you and your spouse can get on the same page about your finances–and stay there.

WHICH ONE OF US SHOULD HANDLE THE FINANCES?

When it comes to handling the finances, the best decision is what works best for you as a couple. This could look like one spouse primarily handling all the finances (which is often the case in many marriages) or you could split responsibilities according to what each of you is most comfortable with handling. The most important thing is to generate positive discussion around the subject and avoid putting unnecessary pressure on each other as you hash it all out.

If you’re going to be handling the finances together, make a checklist of all the financial details that you and your spouse need to manage every month, then decide who handles each item. Create calendar reminders to keep up with payment due dates and be diligent to check in with each other to make sure all the bases are covered.

If just one of you is going to take on the bulk of the money management in your household, make sure you both agree to this arrangement and feel comfortable with it. One spouse taking the reins doesn’t mean he or she is going to be controlling your finances. Rather, the person who handles the majority of the bill-paying should primarily be taking care of recurring monthly payments and keeping an eye on where you stand financially.

However you decide to handle money in your marriage, agree together on the parameters surrounding it. It’s important to set a budget that will give each of you freedom, but also accountability; for example, you might want to decide how much spending money you each get every month that doesn’t require you to report back to each other or share every single receipt.

HOW DO WE PREVENT THE MONTHLY FIGHTS OVER BILLS AND BUDGETS?

If your regular financial check-ins tend to dissolve into ugly fights, take a step back to see how you can work together to prevent those unnecessary conflicts. Do you have different spending or saving styles? Does one or both of you hate dealing with financial matters? Does budgeting stress you out?

One easy way to prevent the monthly money fight is to make decisions about how your money gets dispersed before you ever sit down with the books. Then, figure out the non-negotiables for each of you; what items do you need every month (or every two months), and what do they cost? As we mentioned above, you might want to agree on a finite amount of money that each of you gets every month to avoid excessive check-ins surrounding purchases.

Automating some of your monthly bills can reduce the amount of work you have to do when you sit down with the finances. If one of you hates handling finances and wants to be hands-off, delegate the remaining bill-paying tasks to the other.

We all have different styles when it comes to money, so it’s important to know where you both stand and what’s going on with your money so you can make the best choices possible going forward. Some people like to spend; some like to save. Others are skilled at handling administrative tasks, while others are money-avoiders. Wherever you stand, don’t run from the subject of finances. Both of you really need to know what’s going on, whether one or both of you is ultimately handling the bills.

WHAT IF MY SPOUSE GETS DEFENSIVE EVERY TIME I BRING UP MONEY?

What do you do when you can barely broach the subject of money with your spouse? Does he or she become defensive when you attempt to discuss enacting a budget or reevaluating your finances?

A lot of people equate how much they make with how valuable they are to their spouses and families. It’s an identifiable, results-oriented way of defining themselves. If your spouse is feeling insecure about the amount of money they make, it’s possible that they could be mistakenly reading messages of disapproval from you when you bring up the topic.

It’s important to communicate to your spouse that you’re not evaluating their value as a person or a provider when you bring up financial matters. Tell them you respect them, you love the work they do for your family, and you want to strategize together so that you can both steward your money well.

If your spouse responds in a reactive or defensive way when you talk to them about money, it’s important to work together to find out where it’s coming from. Explore these issues in a natural course of conversation. How did their parents approach finances and make decisions regarding money? What were some differences between their family and yours? Maybe there are some deeply embedded beliefs in their mind that get triggered when you bring up the topic, and talking these things through could help you unravel them.

No matter what, remember that finances are an emotional issue for most couples–but don’t run from the conversation. It’s important to get on the same page with one another to create a shared vision for your future together.

If you would like help communicating about finances with your loved one, please give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

 

3 Reasons Why Tender Touch Cultivates Deeper Intimacy

3 Reasons Why Tender Touch Cultivates Deeper Intimacy

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

When our oldest son was born, we learned more about the unbelievable power of human touch than we ever thought possible. He was born 3 months premature and weighed one pound–and our touch was life-sustaining to him.

Over the months we spent with him in the hospital, we began to talk more about what tender touch does for us in our marriage–not the kind of touch that leads to something more in the bedroom, but the kind of touch that connects and reassures.

Not only does touch cultivate deeper intimacy; it helps us communicate with each other on another level. It sustains and strengthens our connection. And it’s an essential part of a healthy, happy marriage.

1. TOUCH HELPS US FEEL SECURE, KNOWN, AND LOVED

Tender touch conveys our love for one another, and creates a level of emotional safety that opens the door for deeper intimacy. It’s this deep kind of emotional security that leads to more physical desire for one another in the long run. Although we all want to experience a healthy sex life with our spouse, it’s critical to build that foundation.

When we feel valued, we’re more likely to show vulnerability to one another. Affectionate touch doesn’t shut us down; instead, it opens us to that intimacy we’re craving from one another–on multiple levels.

To feel seen, heard, and truly known by your spouse is a powerful component in the health of your marriage. Little daily moments and habits that are meaningful build upon each other and lead to something amazing in our marriages. Use touch to show your spouse that you’re watching, listening to, and valuing him or her.

Like our tiny infant son, touch is essential to our well-being in our marriages; without that daily contact, we can’t thrive.

2. TOUCH KEEPS US CONNECTED

Tender touch awakens us and reminds us of why we fell in love in the first place. It’s a way to tell one another, “I’m for you.” It’s a reminder that we’re not enemies–we’re on the same team.

Some ways you can stay connected with tender touch are:

  • A massage after a long day at work
  • Comforting hugs when your spouse is down
  • Touching your spouse when you’re talking or laughing
  • Holding hands in town
  • Putting an arm around your spouse during worship

Tender touch is particularly important when you’re going through a difficult time in your life or marriage. If you’ve been experiencing a lot of conflict, problems with your children or extended family, health issues, etc., stay connected by making physical contact daily–two to three minutes total, at minimum. You’ll be surprised how much you accomplish emotionally by intentionally touching one another every day.

3. TOUCH COMMUNICATES AFFECTION WITHOUT AGENDA

Tender touch isn’t meant to lead directly to the bedroom; instead, it’s meant to convey affection without an agenda attached. It’s meant to be a selfless, supportive act instead of a means to an end.

We touch our spouses because we love them and cherish them; if we only touch them when we have an agenda, they might start to feel resentful of the fact that you only make physical contact when you want something.

Practice tender touch without expecting sex in return. Be playful and affectionate. Passion is an important component of marriage, but it’s not the only form of physical affection you and your spouse need to share.

(As an added bonus, the more physical affection you share without an agenda attached, the more you and your spouse will desire one another in that passionate way! And you’ll find that you inevitably build anticipation for those private moments while you’re showing one another affection.)

If you would like help in the area of intimacy and relationships, please give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and the Gift of Limitations

Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and the Gift of Limitations

By Russ Ramsey

“At the crucial moments of choice, most of the business of choosing is already over.” – Iris Murdoch

We live in a world of limits. We all run up against them. We all have them. If you’re like me, you wish this weren’t the case. But limits are a fact of life, part of God’s design. Even our first parent, Adam, looked around and said, “I need help. I need another.”

Eve didn’t solve the problem of Adam’s limitations. God didn’t put the man to sleep and then put into him what he lacked. Instead, God took something out of the man and made a partner to come alongside him—helpful but distinct. The gift of Eve confirmed that this was how things were going to be moving forward—how they were meant to be. We wouldn’t merely help ourselves. We’d be given help—and we would be given to help.

Sometimes the help we’re given requires us to adapt to a new course, especially when a person has a personality that changes the rhythm of how we might work on our own. Perhaps they’re faster than us, or more contemplative. Perhaps they think in concrete terms while we favor the abstract. They bring nuance into our otherwise rigid plans, structure to our hazy vision, or economics to our dream. Sometimes, we inherit the work of others, and it falls to us to carry it across the finish line. Sometimes others inherit our work.

Whatever the situation, our limits and need for others often end up producing results—beautiful, helpful, and unexpected results that none of us would’ve expected on our own. The story behind how Michelangelo’s David came to be helps us see this point.

Michelangelo Wasn’t First

Michelangelo’s David is confounding. He’s simultaneously vulnerable in his nakedness and imposing in his size, standing more than 13 feet tall. One hand grips a sling, ready for action; the other is relaxed, cradling a stone. The warrior is alert but calm, equipped but patient, daring but confident. His posture conveys motion, as though he’s just shifted his weight or taken a step. The sling and stone signal to us that David is looking at Goliath, who is about to die. The look in David’s eye tells us he has no doubt.

The shepherd’s hands, his torso, his battle-ready stare, his posture all seem to animate Michelangelo’s block of marble. David is a living stone. He’s a masterpiece.

Yet Michelangelo wasn’t the first sculptor to take hammer and chisel to this marble. Nor was he the second. In 1464, the city of Florence commissioned Agostino de Duccio to sculpt a statue of David as part of a series of 12 Old Testament figures begun in 1410 by Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi—better known as Donatello. After the city brought in a block of marble masoned from the Alps in northern Tuscany, Duccio began his work. But he only got as far as roughing out the legs before he died in 1466.

Ten years later, another sculptor named Antonio Rossellino was brought in to pick up where Duccio left off, but for reasons unknown he was soon removed from the project, and the work-in-progress sat unfinished for the next 25 years.

Finally, in 1501, a 26-year-old Michelangelo convinced city officials that he should be hired to finish the sculpture Duccio started 11 years before Michelangelo was born. He had to accommodate the work of others whose creative choices determined, at least to a degree, how David stood, which affected everything about the end result.

How different would Michelangelo’s David have been if he began with a virgin stone? What artistic choices would he have made differently? Would that sculpture be as beloved as the one we’ve been given? We’ll never know, because Michelangelo was given a block of stone others had a hand in shaping.

No Untouched Foundations

Isn’t this a metaphor for life? None of us builds on an untouched foundation. Many people and their many decisions—for better or worse—have played a role in determining where our feet are planted. Consequently, we ourselves are in the process of shaping future foundations on which others will one day stand. Lord, have mercy.

We work with what we’re given. We live in a world of limits. Michelangelo chipped away at the stone set before him, improving on the vision of other sculptors. But even before that, he had to accommodate the dimensions handed down by the stonemasons who first hewed the marble from the Tuscan Alps. Further still, he had to accommodate the written word of Scripture.

These limits played a role in the creative decisions Michelangelo had to make in order to sculpt the shepherd he’d read about and imagined. Some of those choices had already been made for him—and had they not been, we wouldn’t have Michelangelo’s David. We’d have something else.

I can’t think of a single thing in my life that doesn’t bear the touch of others. I bet you can’t either. Of course we wish some of those chisel marks never happened—the ones that draw from us pleas for mercy and for the renewal of all things. But if we’re honest, many of the marks have been necessary to give us eyes to behold God’s glory, glory we wouldn’t have otherwise known.

Recognizing both our limits and also our need for others is one of the ways we experience beauty we wouldn’t have seen, good work we wouldn’t have chosen, and relationships we wouldn’t have treasured. It’s one of the ways we’re shaped to fit together as living stones into the body of Christ (1 Pet. 2:4–5Eph. 2:22). As much as our strengths are a gift to the church, so are our limitations.

If you would like to talk with someone please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.